— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) October 3, 2014
threw a slight curveball at teams this summer when they announced the new
salary cap. What had initially been figured to be a spike up to $71M ceiling actually levelled off at $69M, leaving a couple of teams in a cap crunch.
That, in turn, left the teams that had proportioned their financial resources more wisely with an opportunity to pounce, with the potential of making a smart acquisition of a useful player that the cash-strapped team wouldn’t otherwise want to part with.
One of those cash-strapped teams is the Chicago Blackhawks, finding themselves over $2M over the $69M threshold at the moment. As a result, a name that has been routinely popping up in the rumour mill has been their young third-pairing defenseman Nick Leddy.
Is this a player that the Canucks
should be inquiring about? Well..
caught a lucky break this offseason; for the last while a team that has generally cut it close to the cap, they were smart to shed enough contracts that the lower-than-expected figure wouldn’t haunt them. At one point, they actually had almost $20M in salary available at their disposal before dipping into those resources by inking the likes of Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata, and re-signing their own RFAs in Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev.
Other teams, such as Boston and Chicago, clearly weren’t prepared for the lower cap number, and now find themselves in the precarious position of needing to part with salary when everyone else is aware of their intentions.
McKenzie has stated
that the Bruins are going to move one or two defensemen – possibly Johnny Boychuck, Matt Barkowski and/or Adam McQuiad – while Chicago and Stan Bowman have tried to trade
Nick Leddy all summer
(though moving Kris Versteeg and a prospect might have more incentive). Ray Ferraro seems to think the Blackhawks
would be most likely to move Leddy, rather than someone like Johnny Oduya, who coach Joel Quenneville sees as an integral part of Chicago’s top-four.
Currently the Blackhawks need to shed $1.3M to $3M in cap space depending on which prospects
they have playing in the NHL. Leddy, who
signed a two-year, $5.4M contract in 2013 will be earning $2.7M this upcoming season. It’ll only get worse for Chicago in this regard; looking ahead to ’15-’16, they currently have 15 players signed and only $3.2M in cap space to work with.
With his qualifying offer Leddy will be
looking to make around $3.5M per season next summer, which surely won’t be easy for Chicago
to keep with the Toews and Kane extensions set to kick in.
landscape in mind, we look back at Vancouver and ask “is this a player the
Canucks should try to acquire”? The Canucks may be strong at defense, but any team’s management
should try to improve their team if the price is right, even if it’s building on a current strength.
is a left-shooting, 23 year old defencemen,
currently listed as 6’ 0” and 194 lbs.
He’s still considered as an asset that’s developing at their age and experience level. He was drafted 16th
overall in 2009 by Minnesota (and then traded with Kim Johnsson to Chicago for Cam Barker)
out of the USHS, putting up 45 points in 31 games. He went on to play one year of NCAA hockey with the
University of Minnesota – scoring 3 goals and 8 points in 30 games – before jumping
ship to the AHL. Over 53 games with the
Rockford Ice Hogs he scored 26 points (good for 0.49 PPG) and in 258 NHL games
he has managed 20 goals and 73 points in 258 games (0.36 PPG).
bloggers over at Fear the Fin
spoke highly of Leddy recently, highlighting him as a potential target for their own team. To quote
“Since he became a regular NHLer at the start of
the 2011-12 season, Leddy ranks 14th among qualifying defensemen in 5-on-5
possession and 20th in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes. Thanks to Corey Sznajder’s
tracking project, we also know he successfully exited the defensive zone on 30%
of his attempts to last season, 14th among defensemen who had at least 450
defensive-zone puck touches. He’s also a one-man neutral zone trap-buster, as
evidenced by his near-50% controlled offensive zone entry rate in the 2014
playoffs, unheard of for a defenseman especially against teams as stingy in
middle ice as St. Louis, Minnesota and Los Angeles. Courtesy Jen of The
Committed Indian, here’s how the Blackhawks have performed with and without
Leddy on the ice at even-strength over the course of his career:
Chicago has done a better job suppressing shot
attempts against with Leddy on the ice compared to without him every season of
his career, and they generated shot attempts at a better clip with Leddy than
without him last season as well. There are certainly important contextual
factors to take into consideration here as Leddy has the benefit of easier
minutes and zone starts on the Hawks’ third pairing but there’s no denying his
talent with the puck in all three zones. His lack of primo minutes on a stacked
blueline has also prevented him from hitting the 40-point mark, meaning he probably
isn’t in for a huge payday as a RFA next summer.”
The Fit with the Canucks
There’s not quite a clear cut answer here, but depending on the price it
would definitely be worth it and given the Blackhawk’s situation it’s unlikely
the cost would overly steep. Even on a
strong defensive corps like the Canucks boast, to improve it with someone of Leddy’s
talent seems like a no-brainer. He would definitely fit in with Benning’s
summer mantra of getting younger while avoiding the drop in play that generally tends to accompany it.
While Leddy is clearly a quality defenseman, the Canucks
don’t need to go out of their way to acquire Leddy since their current biggest
concern is quite clearly the lack of firepower up front. Though looking at their pipeline to come, there’s a lack of a real top-end blue-chip defense prospect in the system. Frank Corrado seems like he has decent enough potential to become a 4th defenseman one day, and while everyone is excited about Ben Hutton, he’s still far from a given.
What we do know is that whoever
ends up acquiring Leddy is going to get a solid, young defensemen on the cheap. Without any sort of inside knowledge, from the outside this seems like a potentially savvy phone call for Jim Benning to make after taking a peek at his roster wall.